Declining enrollment: What can the Legislature and districts do to soften the impact?

The state is projecting that K-12 student enrollment will drop 9% by 2030 and maybe twice that number in some counties. Covid may have accelerated the decrease.

During this roundtable, panelists discussed the pros and cons of changing funding formulas to ease the transition to a new reality and learn what some districts are doing to stem the decline and sharply boost attendance.

Check out this interactive infographic where you can dive deeper into enrollment changes by region.

The panel delves into questions such as:

  • How big a problem will the drop in enrollment be, and has Covid affected projections?
  • How are school districts bucking the trend of declining enrollment?
  • Should the state switch from funding based on daily attendance to yearly enrollment?
  • What are the pros and cons of each approach?
  • How much would it cost to switch enrollment-based funding, and who would benefit?

Read more about this roundtable.

Please scroll down for more information about the panelists.


Carrie Hahnel

Senior Director of Policy and Strategy | Opportunity Institute

Carrie Hahnel is the Senior Director of Policy and Strategy at the Opportunity Institute. Her work focuses on improving systems of school finance, resource allocation, and school accountability to be more equitable. Previously, she worked as interim co-executive director and director of research and policy at Education Trust–West, a nonprofit advocacy group focused on educational justice. She also served as director of research and evaluation for the KIPP Foundation.

She received a Master’s of Education degree from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education.

Sen. John Laird, D-Santa Cruz

California State Senate District 17

John Laird was elected to the State Senate on November 3, 2020. In the State Senate, Laird chairs and serves on a broad array of committees: Chair, Senate Budget Subcommittee #1 (Education), Vice Chair, Joint Legislative Audit Committee, Member, Appropriations Committee, Member, Budget & Fiscal Review Committee, Member, Joint Legislative Committee on Budget, Member, Judiciary Committee, Member, Labor, Public Employment & Retirement, Member, Natural Resources & Water Committee, Member, Rules Committee, Member, Joint Legislative Committee on Rules.

He also served the maximum three terms in the State Assembly, representing the 27th District, which included portions of Monterey, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz Counties, during which he authored 82 bills that were signed into law.

Prior to serving in the State Assembly, Laird was elected as a member of the Cabrillo College Board of Trustees from 1994 to 2002.

The son of teachers and raised in Vallejo, Laird graduated with honors in politics from the University of California – Santa Cruz in 1972. He has been a long-time resident of Santa Cruz with his spouse John Flores. He has traveled extensively, is fluent in Spanish, enjoys conducting family history research, and is a life-long Chicago Cubs fan.

Erin M. Simon

Assistant Superintendent of School Support Services | Long Beach Unified School District

Erin M. Simon leads major reform efforts in school districts. In her current role as the assistant superintendent of school support services for the Long Beach Unified School District, she leads the direction of the special education and student support divisions, High School Wellness Centers and the Family Resource Centers, which provide social, emotional and behavioral health-related support to students within a cluster of schools in Long Beach Unified. She also provides guidance to the district’s 86 schools, with over 69,000 students, on specialized services that covers compliance and policy to name a few.

Erin has been recognized and praised for increasing student achievement and school attendance, closing the opportunity gaps between identifiable and pronounced groups of students, and advocating for equitable, robust, high-quality educational programs, social-emotional interventions, and resources to ensure students can reach their fullest potential

Julien Lafortune

Research Fellow | Public Policy Institute of California

Julien Lafortune is a research fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California, where he specializes in K–12 education. His primary areas of focus include education finance, school capital funding policy, and educational tracking and stratification. He has published research on the impacts of school finance reforms on student achievement in the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics. He holds a PhD in economics from the University of California, Berkeley.

Gina Potter

Superintendent | San Ysidro School District

Gina Potter, San Ysidro School District Superintendent has served in the field of education for 30 years within 7 culturally diverse school districts throughout California. Gina is a third generation educator in South San Diego County, having followed in the footsteps of both her parents and grandfather who are all retired educators.

She also serves as the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) State Vice President for Legislative Action. She was the former ACSA state Chair for the Legislative Policy Committee.

She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Rhetoric, Political and Legal Discourse, from the University of California at Berkeley. She received her Master’s Degree of Education at the University of California, Los Angeles and her doctoral degree in Educational Leadership from the University of California, San Diego, San Diego State University and California State University San Marcos Joint Doctoral Program.

Holly Cybulski

Director of Elementary and K-8 Schools | San Juan Unified School District

Holly Cybulski is the Director of Elementary and K-8 Schools for the San Juan Unified School District. Prior to that, she was an elementary school principal at both Title I schools and open enrollment schools for 10 years and was also an elementary teacher for 10 years. Cybulski’s educational beliefs center around building communities where everyone feels that they belong in order to help raise students to their highest levels both academically and socially.

John Fensterwald

Panel moderator; Editor-At-Large, EdSource

John Fensterwald joined EdSource in 2012. For three years before that, he was founder and editor of the “The Educated Guess” website, a source of California education policy reporting, sponsored by the Silicon Valley Education Foundation. For the preceding 11 years, John wrote editorials for the Mercury News in San Jose, with a focus on education. He worked as a reporter, news editor and opinion editor for three newspapers in New Hampshire before receiving a Knight Fellowship at Stanford University in 1997. His wife is a retired teacher, and their daughter is a neurology resident at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine.

Anne Vasquez

Panel moderator; Executive Director | EdSource

Anne Vasquez took the helm as EdSource’s Executive Director in May 2021. Previously, she served as Director of Content and Strategic Initiatives at EdSource. In that role, she helped shape editorial strategy, grow partnerships and expand the organization’s footprint throughout California. Prior to joining EdSource, Anne was an executive at Tribune Publishing, where she most recently served as Senior Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and Chief Digital Officer. She previously was the Managing Editor of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Anne began her career at The Miami Herald and the San Jose Mercury News, where she was an education reporter and later an editor.